Where is social media going?

Now that it’s nearing the end of 2014, I’ve summarized my thoughts below:

  • People are spending more and more time connected. This is no longer a space that is an add-on for brands, it deserves attention, expertise, and resources. The brands who don’t realize this will be left behind and miss out on earned reach social media brings.
  • Many core platforms have become “pay-to-play” platforms focusing on reach rather than organic engagement. Facebook is now essentially an ad platform – content does not perform (and only reaches about 2% of an audience) without a paid boost. To be on the platform, you must have a budget.
  • The social space is becoming crowded and each platform now has a unique role for consumers. Repurposing the same content across various platform no longer works.
  • Consumers will have more power to control a product/brand in the future. They have opinions, they hijack campaigns, and they aren’t afraid to tell brans what they want. If you’re not listening to your consumers via social media, you better start now.
  • Content is influencing SEO more than ever before, and social media platforms provide more places to publish branded content.
  • The “internet of things” is something to think about when thinking about products and marketing campaigns. People are connected in a variety of ways, with a variety of devices – how to we touch our target consumer in all of these digital touchpoints?
  • Social Analytics can be used to make solid business predictions. We use social conversation data (volume, content) to make decisions on things like timing of campaign launches, or the next product innovations we can explore.

Reflection on my MBA experience

May 22, 2013 was a hot, humid day that began with clouds and drizzles and ended with sun, smiles, and celebration as me and the rest of the Rutgers MBA class of 2013 walked across the stage at NJPAC in Newark, NJ to receive our diplomas.

“How do you feel!?” my classmate Julie asked a few of us as we lined up: https://vine.co/v/b90O9Vq5zJY

I remember when I realized that I wanted to earn my MBA. The idea started bubbling up in my head when I realized that, since I was a kid, I had been coming up with business ideas. By the end of my sophomore year of college, I had a folder on my computer that held  about 12 ideas – logos, business plan drafts, and (light) research included. After one semi-successful pitch, I learned I that I really, really, liked the idea of starting a business and creating a strategy to market it. The person who I pitched to was a successful CEO of a marketing agency who told me  that I was an “idea person.” This both flattered and fueled me to want to really become this  professional “idea person” he saw in me.  That summer, I bought a book called “The portable MBA in Marketing.”

hannah top

The idea of earning my MBA was cemented when I was in my senior year of college.  I was sitting in the student union working on a PR assignment between classes. My mind strayed to questions that weren’t part of the assignment: How much of a budget does PR get in the real world? How do you measure the ROI of a PR campaign in actual sales, not just in media hits?  What if there was an integrated campaign using social media?  I realized that as much as I liked PR, I loved the strategy of using it as a tool among a greater business objective even more. I went to class and asked these questions to my PR professor. She looked at me and said, “Hannah, I think you need to be a marketer.” She continued to answer my questions with examples from her experience as a corporate PR professional at a large pharma company. When I left class, I was committed to learning more about business – and I knew that getting my MBA was how I would do that.

“Be a leader that serves. When you care about others, they follow you. Be that kind of leader.” -Kevin Cummings, CEO, Investors Bank, Rutgers Business School MBA Commencement Speaker

When I first got accepted into the program, I was excited, but incredibly nervous. I was about to enter a program part-time having just turned 23 when the average age was 28. The students were much more experienced than I was. Having been a PR major focused on journalism, I hadn’t taken a real exam in years. In college I was tested on the quality of my news stories and if I was fluent in AP style. The thought of taking accounting and finance while sitting in a room full of business professionals was an intimidating one.

And sure, there were classes where between the buzzwords and math, I became overwhelmed. I spent a lot of time re-reading to catch up. These classes challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, and as a result I learned a great deal. Supply Chain Management taught me the impact of efficiency not only on bottom line, but for the greater good. Accounting taught me to give a lot of credit to all my CPA friends (and also that I will always, always need to hire one). Finance taught me how to map out revenue projections and gave my entrepreneurial projects some real meat.

Then there were those classes that I naturally loved. Equally, I learned a lot in these. Strategy tied all aspects of business together by showing me what drives each part of business and how to align those goals, and how important planning is in both business – and in life. Business Law taught me how much business and law is tied together. Organizational Behavior taught me to be a leader, not a manager. Doing Green Business in Costa Rica taught me about how an entire country is completely aligned and committed to making their businesses carbon-neutral (truly amazing).

These are just some of the classes that inspired, but there were so many more. I always knew I was a curious person, but this program taught me to think analytically.  The MBA answered a lot of my questions about business specifically, but at the same time made me realize I will be a lifelong learner.

In the part-time MBA, there were long nights, lots of weekends spent reading long Harvard Business Cases and countless missed happy hours. There were weeknight classes after long days of work, and Saturday classes – even in the summer.  But, I wouldn’t trade my experience in the MBA program for the world. It was in the MBA program where I gave my first real pitch in front of investors. It’s where I created 3 full business plans and where I placed in two business plan competitions. It’s where I started my own business. It’s where I made some of my best friends and where I found amazing mentors. I learned so much about the world of business, and I feel completely ready to attack what’s next in my career and my life, learning and growing along the way.

hannah bottom

“I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”

These are two of my favorite quotes. They keep me going when my aspiration to become an entrepreneur gets [momentarily] derailed by pesky problems like patent issues and competition.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
– Albert Einstein

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” - Charles F. Kettering

I will keep on dreaming. I will keep on taking things apart and trying to improve them. I will keep on trying to solve problems, and I will always keep on creating.

I miss you Twitter. But it’s okay.

I’m a self-proclaimed social media addict, but I haven’t been very active my own Twitter account – @hannahlah – much at all lately. Recently, I was called out for this by a friend/follower. So, I decided to write about a few reasons why this is, and in my opinion, they’re pretty legit.

First, I’ve been busy on another account.
Luckily for me, I now work at a kick-ass social media agency on a kick-ass account. Which means I’m logged into my client’s kick-ass Twitter page all the time. Sure, I have social listening tools, but there’s nothing like some manual watching and digging as well. Monitoring my client’s social accounts (there are multiple) is always my go-to when I power-up my computer in the morning, am waiting for a bus, or am catching up on TV. It’s my new obsession (and I get paid to do it – lucky me!).

Secondly, there are so many social distractions.
Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, Wikipedia. There are so many sources of information (and distraction) these days, in addition to my Facebook news feed full of my friends’ activities. I find myself gravitating towards Instagram and Pinterest more than ever lately. This probably has to do with my being a visual learner, and the fact that most online content is becoming more visual, so we’re becoming spoiled with it. Either way, there are a lot more places to spend my time online than ever before.

Finally, life got in the way.
It’s been a rough year. Between taking more classes than I could handle when I was wrapping up my MBA, a few health issues of my own and even more serious health issues of both my parents, I’ve had little time to frolick around in the online space as @hannahlah. There is some positive that’s coming out of these events: I’ve re-prioritized what’s important in my life, with a strong focus on cherishing my time with family/friends. And as much of a social geek I am, Twitter just isn’t at the top of my list ;)

6 Resources for the Aspiring Entrepreneur

Originally posted here.

In my MBA classes at Rutgers Business School, I have learned that creativity, perseverance, solid business skills, and passionate determination make an entrepreneur. But, there are also additional resources that help entrepreneurs along the way. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Inventor sites
A professor and mentor of mine, dt ogilvie, told me about Edison Nation when she knew I had a product Idea. It’s great. People from around the world use Edison Nation to get their innovations in front of retailers and manufacturers, to store and perfect their ingenious ideas, keep up with inventive friends, and learn what it takes to create and introduce a successful product into the market. 

2. Pitches
An idea will go nowhere if you don’t know how to communicate it effectively. Every entrepreneur has to learn how to give a good pitch. Shark Tank on ABC offers both entertainment and an education in pitching. I have also been sure to enter every pitch competition available to me so I can practice my pitch and learn what types of questions VCs and Angels will ask me.

3. Meetup Groups
In business school, we are trained to network. Meetup.com provides groups of all kinds of people with similar interests that anyone can join. I highly recommend joining it. When I am looking for a programmer, I go to a tech meetup. When I am looking to find other entrepreneurs for advice and guidance, I go to a cofounder meetup. My current favorites in the NY/NJ area are: Tech Startup Pizza Night, Startup Newark, Scarlet Venture, and NJ Tech. At Tech Startup Pizza night, we fill up an Italian restaurant in NYC, enjoy Pizza, wine and discuss hot topics in the tech startup world. At Startup Newark and Scarlet Venture (both founded by RBS MBA Alumni) and NJ Tech, we give and watch real business pitches, collaborate on projects, hear from great speakers, and have great networking events.

4. Skillshare
Join a Skillshare class, or connect with an industry leaders who are teaching the courses. Skillshare offers courses in entrepreneurship taught by experts, successful startup founders, and more. Some include “Startup Metrics for Founders,”  “Crash Course: Branding, PR, & Social Media,” and “TechCEO Bootcamp.” The last one I went to was at Union Square Ventures, and was pretty amazing.

5. Business Plan Competitions
Business Plan Competitions are a great way to get seed funding, become credible to future investors, and get some insightful feedback on your ideas. Best of all, they usually reward teams with money with no strings attached. Rutgers Business School has a competition each year, as do many other area schools. At Rutgers, both professors and investors judge the plans and pitches, and give valuable feedback that will help you improve your pitch tremendously. It is an amazing experience.Visit bizplancompetitions.com or business school websites to find a competition in your area.

6. Social Media
One of the great things about social media is that you can connect to other aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world and help each other grow. Find and follow mentors on Twitter. Subscribe to your favorite entrepreneurs on Facebook. Start conversations with them, comment on their blog posts, and ask lots of questions. I’ve learned that successful entrepreneurs are generally responsive to those of us just starting out, because they have been in your shoes before. Learn everything you can where people are spending their time and sharing their knowledge, opinions, and thoughts online.


Entrepreneurship meetup notes

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” -Howard Aiken

Last week I attended two entrepreneurship meetups: NJTech and Startup Newark. I love being surrounded by the passion, energy, and creativity that emanates from members.

I thought of the above Howard Aiken quote as people chatted over beer about how and when we should share our ideas when we are working on startups. In my experience so far, the tech startup community has been very open, honest, and collaborative, and that’s one of the many reasons I love it. We’re all working to help users. We’re all passionate. We’re all excited for what’s to come next in tech and in business.

Here are some tips/lessons people shared at the Startup Newark meetup:

  • Ideas are the easy part – execution is the tricky part
  • Understand when you are NOT the expert, and be ready to hire someone to help you out
  • Be confident, and to a degree “fake it til you make it”
  • Read voraciously about your industry, trends, hot topics
  • Bring someone into the biz that can be accountable and drive towards results for your business
  • Must reads: “The Art of the Start,” “The Four Steps to the Epiphany,” & “The Lean Startup

I just started The Lean Startup today.